Desperate residents of a Witney retirement complex say they cannot afford £50,000 to make it flood-resilient after being refused a Defra grant.

Riverside Gardens was flooded on Christmas Eve 2020 when 13 distressed residents were evacuated, with five leaving their gutted properties for several months.

Although many homes and businesses in the area were flooded, Defra said it would not release £5,000 to each of the properties as Witney did not meet the required numbers of affected properties.

Kay Jerred, on the Riverside Gardens residents committee, said: “Defra released this money for other areas of the country flooded in June 2020, but would not release the money for the Witney 2020 Christmas Eve flood.

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“The residents of Riverside understand that this was despite an appeal from West Oxfordshire District Council and our MP Robert Courts.

“We have one charitable trust to hear from in early September, but some charitable foundations have said that they could claim for grants if it was for a long flood barrier along the riverbank to protect the whole site.

“But residents have been told this cannot happen as the water would be forced further upstream, affecting other properties, or possibly downstream, putting even more pressure on the road bridge.”

She added: "To this vulnerable community, it is hard to see why a flooded property in one flood should get the grant but not in another flood. A flooded property is a flooded property with the same distress and heartbreak whichever flood it is.

“I have bought my own flood door with my small amount of savings, as I’m uncomfortable about fighting for finances myself. This money would have taken away some of the anxiety, shock and worry when heavy rainfall is forecast.”

Mrs Jerred said a small amount was received from Oxfordshire county council, the lead local flood authority, and another resident Margaret King recently organised a cake stall and tombola which raised £580.50 in two hours.

Mrs Jerred said: “People here have their pride and would hate to be seen as begging in any way but the average age of residents is 80+ with many on a basic state pension.”

Cllr Norman MacRae, WODC cabinet member for the environment, said: “We understand the devastation that flooding can cause for residents and have sympathy for the residents of Riverside Gardens in Witney who have been affected.

“We have repeatedly lobbied Defra to initiate their Flooding Recovery Framework, and to make their Property Flood Resilience Scheme grants available, providing grants of up to £5,000 to help residents implement flood resilience measures.

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“However, Defra has not committed to this course of action for residents in West Oxfordshire.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “Flooding is devastating for those affected and that is why we are investing a record £5.2 billion between 2021-27, creating around 2,000 new flood and coastal defences to better protect 336,000 properties across England.

“We are also working to accelerate the uptake of Property Flood Resilience across the country, with improvements to flood insurance to incentivise uptake and a roadmap to look at what more can be done by industry and government.”

He pointed out that the Property Flood Resilience (PFR) Repair Scheme is only activated in exceptional circumstances and made available to a district or unitary councils where there are more than 25 severely flood affected properties.

A concerned neighbour has set up an appeal for the Riverside Gardens residents at